The operational aspects of running a church tend to involve work that attracts introverts. People who prefer to work behind the scenes and often need recovery time after a big church event. While introverts may need more breaks from socializing than others, they love people deeply and want to serve with excellence. The more outgoing social butterflies may get the most attention, however, introverted church leaders can thrive in this extroverted world.
An introvert myself, I am re-energized by solitude. I love being around friends and family, yet after an extended interaction, I need some time alone to recharge. That seems to be a common refrain among introverts. Our society tends to place a higher value on extroverted expression and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
So, how do you know if you’re an introvert?
- Have you ever stood in the back of a crowded room to take a break from talking to people?
- Did you have an overpowering urge to turn down that party invitation to stay home and read a book?
- Does not talking for several hours at a time sound perfectly normal to you?
As a fellow introvert, allow me to reassure you that you’re not weird or antisocial. Solitude and quiet enable us to recharge so we can go back out into this extroverted world with some energy left in our emotional and physical tanks.
There’s been a lot of talk about introverts, yet it’s only fitting that most of the “conversation” has been via articles instead of actual dialog. Susan Cain broke the ice with her TED Talk and book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Justin Lathrop discussed how we may tend to isolate introverts in the church. These are just a couple of examples of excellent material about introverts that have been refreshing to see.
So, how can introverted church leaders cut through the noise to lead and serve our congregations?
#1: Allow for solitude
Your extroverted friends may never understand why you need time alone and that’s okay. You may wonder at times why they want to be around so many people all the time, either! The point is that you have to become okay with occasionally declining invitations to social activities. Give yourself permission to take a break even though you may be misunderstood.
I’m very upfront about being an introvert and that’s been quite effective. I’ve helped organize large church events and the other organizers know that I’ll have to go home for a long nap after the event is over. They don’t really “get it”, but at least they don’t think I’m upset with them or that I’m antisocial.
#2: Periodically push past your comfort zone
God created you with a purpose and that purpose will require interaction with others. Just like intense exercise brings muscle soreness along with increased strength, exercising your “extroverted muscles” may wear you out sometimes.
I’ve come to enjoy leading teams, attending events, and doing public speaking because I know these activities provide me an opportunity to serve others. I’ve expanded my capacity for interaction over time and have learned when to take breaks. You don’t have to try and become an extrovert, but go ahead and get out there to offer your unique talents.
#3: Speak up for fellow introverts
It’s hard to get a word in during a meeting full of extroverts, but please make the effort. When your church is planning an event or special service, the focus tends to be on creating energy in the room. That’s extroverted speak for a fun, engaging experience and we should embrace their efforts.
We should also look for ways to help introverts enjoy the event. Recommend including an opportunity for quiet reflection during a worship service or leaving a few open spaces in the room for introverts to retreat to when they need some breathing room. Those spaces will feel “dead” to the extroverts, so you’ll need to explain how that helps some of their guests feel more comfortable.
If you’re NOT an introvert, please know: Introverts really do love people. However, introverts appreciate people in smaller groups and with a bit less frequency than extroverts do. A big church event with loud music, lots of people, and constant visual stimulation is fun yet exhausting for an introvert. They’re glad you’re having fun and that this type of event attracts people to church. Just don’t be alarmed if your introverted colleagues disappear for several hours afterward. After all, they need to retreat at home to recharge so they can come back to work refreshed and energized for the tasks at-hand.
We all have a responsibility to use our unique abilities and personality traits for service. Introverts possess a quiet strength that is just as needed as an extrovert’s ability to energize a room. Offer your gifts, find ways to interact, and recharge when needed. Trust me, the effort involved is worth it and we need your contributions.